26 January 2005
The contents of a letter from the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp. to Gov. Frank Murkowski, which several Borough Assembly members found disturbing last week,
also elicited a response by the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources in defense of the public process in Kodiak.
The letter by AADC president and chief executive officer Pat Ladner to Murkowski’s office is reprinted in full on page 12.
Commissioner Tom Irwin responded to charges by Ladner that the public process for AADC’s request to manage an additional 14,000 acres of land was needlessly being drawn out and encouraged dissent.
“Because no complaints have been registered in the past, AADC anticipated the application process begun in January 2004 would be quick and without controversy,” Ladner wrote to the governor. “This has not proved to be the case.”
Ladner points to the public hearing in Kodiak held Aug. 2, which was officially protested by AADC, and the extended comment period given the public after the public hearing as well as the 60-days comment period on the final draft.
“It almost appears that the opponents are being begged to protest and come up with additional reasons for ADNR to deny the AADC request,” Ladner wrote. “ADNR’s actions tell the opponents that if the opponents can muster enough opposition, then the request could be denied.”
Ladner also faulted DNR for: repeatedly questioning AADC’s motives for requesting the use of an additional 14,000 acres; not consulting AADC before the final draft was presented; and for the need to have interim authority to close off the additional 14,000 acres during the December KLC launch because the comment period of the final draft was not yet complete.
“I would not be surprised to see protests when AADC moves to enforce interim authority,” Ladner wrote before the Dec. 14 launch. “There could be sit-ins at the launch and possible law suits associated with the removal of protesters, and all because ADNR did not process AADC’s application in a timely manner and did not let the community know about the interim authority for this launch.”
The letter also expresses Ladner’s displeasure over the compromise reached by DNR on the request by AADC to close an additional 14,000 acres of land during rocket launches.
The compromise keeps the land under DNR’s management and allows AADC to close the 14,000 acres by permit for hazardous operations and actual rocket launches.
Ladner called the compromise “against AADC’s better judgment” and said he was not convinced the “proposed solution would provide the long-term method needed to assure that AADC can meet its customer’s safety and security needs.”
In his letter, Ladner requests a meeting of top state officials to craft an alternate solution.
A response letter from Irwin dated Dec. 28, 2004, after the most recent launch at KLC, defended the public process and calls a meeting of state officials “premature” because the compromise decision has not yet been finalized.
The final decision is expected to be released by DNR in late January. Irwin informs Ladner it is within his rights to appeal the final decision.
Irwin questions Ladner’s suggestion that the public process was extended because of “a small clique of anti-development, anti-defense and anti-KLC residents.”
“Unfortunately, I do not believe this to accurately represent the situation,” Irwin wrote. “We received concerns from the two local legislators, two unanimous resolutions from the Kodiak Island Borough assembly, a well-attended public meeting and numerous letters.
“In airing your proposal the region received comments and concerns that, in my opinion, clearly represent a broad cross-section of the community,” Irwin continued. “It is simply not accurate to describe the Borough Assembly, legislators, and those people who expressed themselves as ‘a small clique of anti-development, anti-defense and anti-KLC residents.’”
Irwin said he had reviewed the process DNR’s Southcentral office had followed and did not see evidence that the public process has been drawn out or was prejudicial to AADC’s needs.
“The community is obviously concerned about the manner in which the public land surrounding the launch facility is being managed and how it will affect their longstanding use of the area,” Irwin wrote.
Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.